Sarah Curran: San Francisco

Sarah is the Programming Director for the Stanford Arts Institute, where she instigates and incubates innovative art projects, interdisciplinary research, coursework and artist residencies.

What’s your historical San Francisco and New York connection?
I grew up just outside New York. It was the first city I knew and loved, the place I went to see matinees with my mom, my first concert in high school, and other mischief in years to come. I moved there in 2004 to attend grad school at NYU. When an opportunity arose to develop a new program at Stanford, I decided to take a chance. I had only been to San Francisco once before, and only knew one person here. I thought I’d be here 2 years; it’s been five and a half. Sometimes I think I’ve struck the perfect balance: I live in San Francisco full time, but I’m back in New York very, very often for work and family.

Describe your experiences in SF and NYC.

New York was many things. It was a homecoming of sorts: back to high school and college friends, back to family. I went to grad school because I wanted to start my own performance company, found myself making performances about photographic archives of Diane Arbus and August Sander, and had no idea what I wanted to do once I graduated. Then I found a place at the Tribeca Film Festival where I created a cinema series and ran a gallery space. New York was creative, social, busy, exhausting, exhilarating.

What was the biggest challenge of moving from SF to NYC?  

There’s a major difference in communication styles; New Yorkers like definitives, San Franciscans keep things vague. I’d much rather someone say yes or no than be non-committal, but I’ve learned to adapt.

How can NYC and SF best engage with each other?

I think New York could learn from San Francisco’s weekend mentality: weekends are a break, often out of town, often in nature, and most importantly, spent not working.
I’d like to see more bleed between the arts disciplines in San Francisco – I think there’s a larger multidisciplinary creative scene in New York, but in San Francisco, it tends to segment. There’s a lot to learn from other creative thinkers, no matter what the discipline. I’d also like to see and create more reciprocity between the San Francisco and New York creative scenes.

Favorite SF secret spot?
Mission Rock Resort is a great spot on the water that’s in a no man’s land between Mission Bay and the Dogpatch. It’s a place for a long brunch with friends, drinking Moscow mules in the sunshine.

Favorite NYC secret spot?

One of my best friends used to run a summer theater festival called Ice Factory at the Ohio Theater, which used to be on Wooster Street in an old factory space. My favorite thing was to show up at the theater on a hot summer evening after a play and sit in one of the big open factory doors, drinking three-dollar beers and watching the people go by.

The Ohio has since moved to a new spot, but there’s still good theater and cheap beer.

If you were not at the Stanford Arts Institute, what would you be doing?

In a perfect world I would buy a barn somewhere and have a life making art and food with friends.
Roadtrip playlist: tell us what song/album, TV show, podcast, or web videos you’ve been watching lately.
I’m currently leading an architecture program in Chicago, so I’m reading a lot of local history right now. I’m really enjoying The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream, by Thomas Dyja. Since I’m in Chicago, I have to give props to This American Life. And Scandal on Hulu is my latest guilty pleasure.

From the 2905 Miles newsletter: connecting NEW YORK CITY + SAN FRANCISCO

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